Review of the game FF7 logo
   Shinra Inc is a powerful company, based in the city of Midgar, which controls everything: the army, science labs, the commerce, the people etc. Their building towers above the city where the elite live, while most people are isolated in the slums underneath where they live in darkness, despair and poverty. Shinra's main source of power are the Mako (read nuclear?) reactors which they build and use to sell energy. These are highly profitable, but have catastrophic consequences for the Planet as they steal all its life source and are also rumoured to be creating monsters, not to mention their high risk of explosion and pollution are a threat to all life forms. The player enters the game as Cloud, a young self-centered ex-member of SOLDIER (Shinra's elite troups) who recently became a mercenary. An idealist anti-establishment group known as Avalanche has hired his services to help them fight against the Shinra.
   However, their first strong action goes seriously wrong when the bomb they set off to destroy a reactor accidently kills civilians. Haunted by their own guilt and doubts, they must overcome the civil tensions inside their own group. Besides, they are now chased by the Shinra, ready to use the most questionable means to eliminate any resistance to their policies. Avalanche cannot even rely on the help of most people, too selfish, ignorant or apathic to care about the government's dangerous ways. Very soon though, the small group comes to realise that their fight to free the oppressed and save the planet from an ecological disaster may not be exclusively against the Shinra. There may be stronger powers at bay, inhuman and terrifyingly powerful, and they may not be able to trust anyone, not even their own selves.
   A sharp political satire, an existentialist philosophical reflection on life and the intricate workings of the human mind, a strong environmental questioning of humanity's destructive relationship to nature and of the potential dangers of science, a beautiful love story, an exciting adventure, a journey both physical - across an awe-inspiring fantasy world, discovering its lands and villages, encountering and talking to its inhabitants - and psychological - into the past and very minds of the characters. The scope and depth of this work carries it above the video game industry into the realm of art. The images are wonderful. Entire cities, complete with houses and people, strange various lands populated by creatures of all kinds, are minutiously designed. The characters have a sweet cartoony manga aspect and are given an unusually intricate individual personality.
   The music is unforgettable and decidedly dark, alterning like the tone of the story from sweetness to harshness, from hope to the strongest depths of pain and despair, with also some occasional lapses into humour. Uematsu signs with this soundtrack one of his finest work, especially with the amazing "One-winged angel", the beautiful "Great warrior", "Chasing the black-caped man", "City of the Ancient" and the haunting "Who are you/ Who am I?" pieces.
   Unquestionably the best and most involving game in my opinion. Once you have played this, you will never want to go back to any other game, as FFVII is at the same time an excellent film, novel, game and work of art. There are also many sub-quests and mini-games. Magic is contained in colourful stones known as 'materia' and can be grown as well as combined in many ways. You can also breed 'chocobos' (an ostrich-type animal) and attempt to create the much sought-for Gold or Black chocobos which have special abilities. Finally, there is also a whole city of entertainment where you can participate in many different types of mini-games called the Gold Saucer.
   The level of difficulty of the game is perfect. Both experienced and non-experienced players are catered for. FFVII is always enjoyable and never gets frustratingly impossible or repeatitive. It may seem complicated at first to the novice, but it is not, and if you persevere, you will not be disappointed. Most of the game is easy and therefore fun but the makers have also thought of those seeking tough challenges by adding optional near-impossible fights (eg, against the Ruby and Ultima Weapons), hidden secrets as well as sub-quests. There are many saving points and players are given as much help and directions as they wish. They also have the choice to refuse to listen if they prefer to find out on their own. There are numerous characters, magic spells, summons, armors, amulets and weapons to choose from. Moreover, there are hundreds of different combinations for all of them, which allows the players to be more creative and skilled. However, basic simple combinations can be used for those who care little about the technical side of the game.
   The way the battle sequences are filmed, the use of music and special effects are very effective. The animation is very cartoon-like and the characters are all infused with a certain fragility, innocence and sweetness. Even the most evil ones are granted some sympathy and understanding by the authors, as when they show the sadness and solitude in Sephiroth's madness. All this makes the violent and horrific events that the characters are confronted to even more painful. No one is competely innocent, no one is completely guilty. This is a new approach to the usually simplistic good versus evil traditional fantasy. In a way, all characters are victims, of others if not of their own selves.
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